Roy Williams has always been a coach that has built his offense around up tempo and solid low post play and it’s been very successful doing so. However, this team is different. While they do have a super talent forward in James Michael McAdoo, the guys around him down low are inexperienced and haven’t been locked into their roles. The perimeter players on the other hand, know exactly what their roles are. Saturday night, North Carolina beat UAB 102-84 on the strength of 10 three pointers. Leslie McDonald, PJ Hairston, and Reggie Bullock really had a great game shooting the ball from behind the arc. This season, it’s been evident that when Carolina shoots the ball and gives themselves a chance to score from outside, they win ball games and they win by big margins.
I think a big part of Carolina shooting the ball efficiently comes from having the confidence just take the shots. Carolina’s main permimeter shooters have never had to be relied on before to drive the scoring because they’ve always had dominant, efficient big men in Tyler Zeller and John Henson to dump the ball down to. The big men in Chapel Hill have always opened up the scoring on the outside when teams try and double down, but this year, it needs to trend the opposite way.
James McAdoo is expected to be the low post presence this season and score, score, score. He’s been that guy the majority of the time, but on games Carolina has lost, they’ve struggled from three and subsequenty McAdoo has struggled as well. If Carolina can get their shooters going early, including freshman Marcus Paige, then the lanes will be a lot more open for McAdoo down low with everyone checking the guards outside. Yes, the guards do have to make the shots they take in order to make this effective, but in order to make the shots, they can’t be afraid to take them.
During the Indiana fiasco in Bloomington last week, Carolina really struggled not only to make threes, but to take them as well. No one wanted to step up and fire away. Pj was out due to injury, but McDonald and Bullock only combined for four total attempts behind the arc. That’s all the evidence you need. In order for the players to have the confidence to take the shots (besides making them), the team needs to do a better job of finding space for them. Paige and Dexter Stickland will need to be masters at penetrating to the basket and draw in help from other defenders. Once the help comes that will leave shooter open. Other ways to create space is by forcing turnovers in the open court and setting good screens in the half court. I feel like the UNC big men have struggled setting efficient enough screens up top to free up their wings long enough for a good shot. It’s nothing practice cannot take care of, but Roy needs to make it a priority.
While this Tar Heel team is young, this year is unfamiliar for the coach as well. Roy has always had players that he could dump passes down to for the easy score and while McAdoo can definitely be that guy, he is learning as well. The bulk of his experience rests with his shooters so to me, that’s where he needs to focuse the ball while this team continues to mesh. If Roy can get his shooters to take 23 good three point shots like they did against UAB, then I feel good about our players chances to make a good amount of them. Also, the more outside shots his players knock down, the more space it opens up for McAdoo to score down low. The rest of the non conference schedule should be a good indicator if the focus shifts more in that direction. If the team can shoot the way they did on Saturday, I certainly hope that it does.